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How to build a startup team

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Real talk: no matter how great your idea is or how much funding you have, you can’t do it alone. Period.

No startups are a one woman/man show because nobody can scale alone. At APX, we believe that the real value is in the people, the founders, the team. One of the key questions we always ask startups, who want join APX, is:

Why you? Are you the team to pull this off?

Build for Agility and Speed

With digitization, the boundaries between verticals are becoming increasingly blurrier. Industries change unexpectedly and that is why early stage startups have a superior advantage over other companies; they can adapt quickly, pivot rapidly, and thus swiftly capitalize on opportunities. Having a strong team is at the core of a startup’s success. A paper published in Science adds:

“A founder’s individual characteristics are important but what’s more important is that person’s ability to bring a bigger and more experienced team with them,” the researchers say. “And the bigger that team the more likely the firm will succeed.”

As the saying goes: “In startups, everyone is wearing multiple hats”. Therefore, chemistry and team players will make or break your team during the tough times. As a founder, you are in the center of it all. Can you feel the pressure? Good.

Build the Puzzle instead of doing the Puzzle

When building your team, think about:

  • How will the different members work together?
  • How well is one’s character strengths aligned with the needed responsibilities and the team the person is on?
  • Is there a balance in the different kind of personalities?
  • Do you trust your team and do you love to work with them?

Build with Balance

We often observed that when it comes to expertise, early stage startups often have a focus on either the business or the technical side. It is important to have both because if you don’t, you won’t be fast enough and you will not be able to convince the investors. If you are unable to convince investors, then you can’t raise money, which means that you can’t scale. Funding is important but the team comes first. When joining APX, you don’t need to have everybody on board when you start the program, but you will need to hire quickly because the program is demanding. While we can’t do the hiring for you, we open up our network to you and help you in your search.

Build a Soul

When hiring, consider the “soul check” because culture eats strategy for breakfast – make sure that this person fits with you, not only in terms of skills, but also in terms of company culture. This is especially important when considering giving away equity. Meet the person before and get to know them personally – have extended conversations that go beyond just business and work. If the legal aspects of hiring stresses you, don’t worry, part of the APX Program is helping you with contracts. This will save you time and energy that you can use to focus on accelerating your business. We know that team building is an ongoing process. This is why, if you join APX, we offer a workshop in this area of concern where you can address questions, such as hiring, retentions, and also everyday challenges. 

Claudia Pilgrim and Patricia Weikert from Spark HR Consulting provides a “How to Build and Manage a Team” workshop where they help our portfolio startups understand key challenges such as how every team goes through the process of Forming, Storming, and Norming. Forming is the first stage where everybody is new, excited, and polite. There is a little bit of anxiety in the air but the overall atmosphere is positive. The Storming phase happens when conflicts start to rise, people’s natural working styles are clashing, and the team starts questioning the vision of the company. This is often when the startup breaks. Should you be able to overcome this, you enter the Norming phase; when people are past doubting their colleagues and the leadership. The team comes together and trust each other; this sparks constructive feedback between team members, bonds are stronger, and everyone is moving towards the same goal at a much higher speed than during the Forming stage. It is important to note that once you are in the Norming phase, it is very possible to revert back to the Storming stage. The process does not run in only one direction. At APX, we help you overcome the storming phase by giving you individualized advice (what to do, when to wait, when to intervene) and by connecting you with the right experts.

Are you a founder? What was your experience during the Storming phase? How did you get through it and reach the Norming phase?

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